Chandra Taal – The Moon Lake in Spiti Valley

Chandra Taal – The Moon Lake in Spiti Valley

Have you ever stretched your limits to see the place of your dreams? I did a few months back when I trekked for five days to reach Spiti Valley from Manali. In these five days, I crossed the Hampta pass with GIO Adventures, camped at a new spot every night and eventually got to see one of the bluest lakes that I have ever seen. This lake is called Chandra Taal and it is in the middle of Spiti’s wilderness.

Chandra Taal - the lake of my dreams

Chandra Taal – the lake of my dreams

Chandra Taal in Hindi directly translates into “the moon lake” or “the lake of the moon”, because of its crescent shape. Some locals in Spiti Valley believe that fairies frequently visit this lake at night. I felt a need to visit this lake because I had a dream that I was flying over it. (Maybe I am a fairy and I don’t know it? Hehe)

Chandra Taal Lake – Legends and Fables

There are many legends that are associated with Chandra Taal but I will only tell you about two. The first is from Mahabharata, the Sanskrit epic of ancient India. It is believed that this lake is the location where the rain God Indra’s chariot took the eldest Pandava, Yudhishthira to heaven.

Chandra Taal Lake - no picture could capture the real blueness of the water

Chandra Taal Lake – no picture can capture the real blueness of the water

The second legend associated with this Chandra Taal is something that locals believe. As per this fable, once upon a time, a shepherd often visited this lake with sheep. On one of his visits, he met a beautiful fairy that emerged out of the lake. He fell in love with that fairy and often spent time with her and away from his wife. The fairy made him promise not to tell anyone about her; else she would leave him forever. Years went by peacefully but he eventually broke his promise to her in a fit of rage. He went back to the lake but obviously, she had disappeared. He cried in front of the lake, pleading the fairy to return. The locals believe that the decedents of the shepherd still visit the lake in a hope to meet the fairy.

Where is Chandra Taal Lake?

Chandra Taal is located in Spiti side of Lahul and Spiti valleys in Himachal Pradesh. These two valleys are a part of tribal Himalayas and are remote. These valleys are arid and that’s why this area is called “cold desert”. While most parts of Himachal Pradesh are green, the barren beauty of Spiti valley is something that I had never seen before. Most parts if these valleys are inaccessible from the months of October to May.

Perhaps it is the air of mystery.. or the magic of fables but as per me, this part of the Himachal is insanely beautiful. The strange beauty of Spiti is something that I will remember for life.

How to reach Chandra Taal?

Hampta Pass Day 4 - Spiti Valley's Barren Beauty

Spiti Valley’s Barren Beauty

If you remember I mentioned that I trekked for 5 days to reach Chandra Taal. My last camping location before visiting this lake was Chatru, which is in Lahaul valley. Fatigue won over adventure on the last day and we decided to take a taxi from Chatru to Chandra Taal. If you’re visiting from Manali, you can hire a car from there to reach this lake. Please don’t drive here yourself because the condition of the road is treacherous after Batal. Alternatively, you can trek to Chandra Taal from Manali or Batal.

From Chatru to Chandra Taal

The roads in Spiti Valley are definitely some of the worst ones that I have ever seen in the world. They call them treacherous for a reason. The drive from Chatru to Chandra Taal was bumpy and torturous. The fact that I got the most uncomfortable seat in the car did not help because I had very little space in the back of my car to move. I ended up hurting myself every time there was a bump on the road, which was often. I got this seat because everyone in our group was sick except me. The next day, I had massive blue marks on my thighs because of repeated bumps.

Spiti Valley's narrow roads and traffic jam

Spiti Valley’s narrow roads and traffic jam

On our drive from Chatru to Chandra Taal, I often saw boulders on the road and at times even streams that had overflown on the road. One of these streams is named “pagal nala”, which means “insane stream” and true to its name, it had flooded the entire road and had caused a massive traffic jam. It took a little more than an hour for the traffic to move. It was pretty impressive how the local drivers encouraged and help each other to get out of the mess.

There was no cellphone connectivity here but on our way to Chandra Taal, I saw a sign that said “PCO”. Having not spoken to my family since the last few days because of no phone coverage, I was very happy to see this phone booth that was operated by the Indian Army using satellite phones. A little phone call to my family made me forget the torture of the car journey.

Anyway, the drive from Chatru to Chandra Taal parking lot took around a little more than two hours including the one-hour traffic jam. There were just around 3 cars parked and from here we had to walk for a kilometer to reach the lake.

Chandra Taal – so much blue

At the parking lot outside Chandra Taal, I couldn’t believe we were near the lake because everything around me was barren. How in the world can a water body really exist in this arid landscape?

As compared to our last 5 days of trekking, the walk to the lake was very easy. However, it was the high altitude and thin oxygen that gave some of us headaches. After all, it’s 4300 meters above the sea level, literally half the height of Mount Everest.

My headache was soon forgotten because in the middle of all the dull colored landscape; I finally saw a splash of blue. The sight of this blue dot was like a sip of coffee on a lazy morning because I felt suddenly energetic. This shiny turquoise pendant on Spiti’s barren collarbone grew bigger and bluer as I got closer. Finally, I was at the edge of this lake.

Drinking in Chandra Taal's beauty

Drinking in Chandra Taal’s beauty

At this moment, I felt I was a part of my computer’s wallpaper that I had stared at for a long time, except it was way more beautiful in reality. Maybe it was in the air or the Buddhist prayer flags but I felt a magical energy that the lake was radiating. I felt a need to stay quiet as I stood next to it. It was time to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings and be thankful for life and Mother Nature for her wonders.

Buddhist Prayer Flags next to Chandra Taal

Buddhist Prayer Flags next to Chandra Taal

Maybe it’s a good thing that Chandra Taal is a little hard to reach.. or Amir Khan chose Pangong Lake instead of this lake for his movie Three Idiots, else the area around this lake would not have been as tranquil as this. A few years back, it was possible for people to camp right next to the lake but I’m glad it’s not allowed anymore. As of now, the nearest campground is a little more than 3 KMs away from Chandra Taal.

Have you ever worked very hard to see the place of your dreams? Let me know in the comments.

Disclaimer: I was invited by GIO Adventures for a trekking trip where I crossed the Hampta Pass and visited Chandra Taal. The trip was complimentary but the opinions expressed in this article are mine. If you’re planning a trek or any other adventure in the Himalayas, then do get in touch with them – they’re AWESOME.

Chandra Taal - The Moon Lake in Spiti Valley. I trekked for 5 days in the Himalayas (India) to reach this spot.

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her partner in crime (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Kheerganga – My Favorite Trek in the Himalayas

Kheerganga – My Favorite Trek in the Himalayas

Have you ever visited a place that you wished would remain a secret?

Kheerganga was one such place for me.

A trek so beautiful that the physical workout felt like a picnic.

A destination so picturesque where it felt like I was in the land of “Heidi.

A dreamlike natural pool surrounded by snow but warmed by hot springs.

Was I dreaming? Maybe!

With its ethereal viewpoints, cute villages, lovely locals and good vibes, the magic of Parvati Valley pulls me towards itself at least once every year.

A few years back, one such journey resulted in a trek to Kheerganga. Back then, none of the people I knew had heard of it or had been to this place. The realization that there was no mention of this place on Lonely Planet and only a one liner description on WikiTravel ended up fueling my excitement to embark on this journey.

From Paharganj to Kasol

On a late Thursday evening of warm April, I boarded a taxi from Paharganj to Kasol with 5 other friends to kick start our trip. 550 KMs through the hills and 12 hours later, we were in Kasol. Once a quaint little river side town, Kasol has now become a jam-packed tourist destination. I prefer to head to one of the nearby villages and skip Kasol entirely.

Upon reaching Kasol, we stopped for a quick brunch at Sasi restaurant and headed off to Tosh. With no roads inside the village, Tosh has still managed to retain its otherworldly charm. It was not our first time in Tosh but we couldn’t help gasping when we caught the first view.

Crowded Kasol to Quiet Tosh

Tosh was our base for this trek. The agenda of our first day was nothing but rest and acclimatization. However, there’s no stopping of curious minds and we ended up spending the entire day walking around on narrow paths within the village, playing with goats and sitting with locals.

Beautiful people of Tosh

Beautiful people of Tosh

Tosh is one of those few places where simpleminded locals sit and smoke chillums with their families after a long day’s work. After all, they are surrounded by magical herbs that grown in plenty around them – probably one of the most potent and cleanest in the world as mentioned in one of Amsterdam’s coffee shops.

The Trek begins

After an unplanned late night (which wasn’t a good idea), we woke up at 5 am to start our trek. Somehow, none of us were hungover or sluggish – was it the magic of the Himalayas? Maybe! We left our bigger backpacks back in our inn and carried a super light overnight backpack instead.

The main path to Kheerganga starts from Barshaini from where it’s an 11 KM trek. Barshaini is 3 kilometers away from Tosh but we asked a few locals and took a trail that shortened our trek by 1 KM that started from Tosh itself instead of Barshaini.

The first few kilometers were hardly a climb. Our trail was through lush farms, small hills and villages along the Parvati River. We couldn’t help but stop on many points to let the beauty of our surroundings sink in. With not a single soul in sight; we felt we had taken a wrong way until we reached the first village. Unlike Triund trek – we were the only ones on this trail.

Rudra Nag Village

The first village where we stopped, Rudra Nag, was near a waterfall. This is where we decided to take a little break and eat Maggie noodles.

Rudra Nag Village Chai Shop

Rudra Nag Village Chai Shop

Beyond Rudranag, the woods became dense and the path became steeper.

We crossed a fragile looking narrow bridge one by one and reach a signboard that arrowed towards Kalga village. There were no other markings but we knew Kheerganga was towards the other side of the signboard.

Trek to Kheerganga

Trek to Kheerganga – This is me

The last part of the trek demanded a strenuous climb. It was at that moment I asked myself – “how much more can I climb in one day?” Strangely, right after that thought, all of a sudden I came across a sign that said “Welcome to Kheerganga”.

We were finally in Kheerganga!

Welcome to Kheerganga

Welcome to Kheerganga

So what was it like?

It was a green patch that was lightly slanted and surrounded with mountains that were covered with snow. There were some snow patches in Kheerganga too!

Keerganga

Keerganga

Kheerganga is a spiritual site where Lord Shiva is believed to have meditated for 3000 years. There is a little pool on the highest point here with warm spring water. The water from the hot springs is believed to be “holy” with healing properties.

Natural Pool of Kheerganga heated by Hot Springs.

Natural Pool of Kheerganga heated by Hot Springs. Do you see that little snow patch next to it?

The tiny pool of Kheerganga is what the village has been named after – which roughly translates into milky water of holy nature with reference to Ganges River.  This pool is divided in two sub pools with one section for men and the other one for women.

The best part? A blissful feeling of being immersed in warm water with mountains around that were covered with snow! I’m not sure how many hours we spent in that pool but it was enough to suck out the tiredness of the trek.

For INR 60 per person, we found an inn to spend the night. This inn was next to the hot springs where the insides were kept warm with fire. However, nothing could keep our bodies warmer than our dear old Old Monk rum.

Our Hut in Kheerganga

Our Hut in Kheerganga

That evening, we saw the most magical sunset with many shades of orange in the sky that made the snow caps glow like fire.

Kheerganga Sunset

Kheerganga Sunset

Next morning, we went back to the pool for another dip before starting our trek back to Tosh. After a big breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to Kheerganga. While the climb up took between 4 – 5 hours, the way back was only 3 hours. As always, there was a sense of achievement after finishing this trek.

Are you planning on trekking to Kheerganga too? Please keep these few things in mind:

1) You can reach Kheerganga by catching an overnight Himachal Tourism bus from Delhi to Manali but get off at Bhuntar. This will cost you 1000 – 1200 and the buses are comfortable. From Bhuntar, head to Tosh or Manikaran and acclimatize for a day and start your trek from here early morning.

2) Don’t carry heavy backpacks. Leave your luggage in Tosh or Manikaran and only carry light overnight backpacks with a torch, a pair of flip flops, swimsuit, small money, toilet paper and a very thin towel. Kheerganga is cold even in summers so carry something warm in your backpack.

3) Don’t try to trek up and back from Kheerganga in a day unless you don’t mind getting lost in the mountains in the dark and becoming a treat for a Himalayan bear.

4) Don’t leave your trash anywhere. Don’t be an annoying “noisy” tourist. Respect nature, the serenity of the mountains and the locals.

Kheerganga Trek

Kheerganga Trek

Spread good vibes and don’t forget to smile.

Kheerganga Trek was my best trekking experience. What was yours?

You might also like:

Triund Trek of Himachal Pradesh, India

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Galu village

Pin to save the post for laterKheerganga Trek - our experience and essential tips. A trek through Himachal's beautiful Parvati Valley along the Parvati river .

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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